By Tiffany Grant
The Employer-Assisted Housing Program led by the Office of Civic Engagement and Facilities Services (FS) was reinstated July 2023, after a pause during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the advocacy of FS’s LaKeesha Carter, manager accounts payable and loans, the program has fewer stipulations and is more appealing to home buyers. Established two decades ago as an incentive for University employees to reside in neighboring south side communities, the program initially offered a $5,000 forgivable loan towards the purchase of homes and has helped more than 300 employees. The University collaborates with community partners including lenders, brokers and housing counselors at Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago to help support the program. While intended to offer financial assistance to middle income employees, Carter saw holes and nuances in the program that caused some employees to walk away from the offer and leave money on the table.
Desiree Rideaux (Citibank), LaKeesha Carter (UChicago FS), Michelle Brown and Naja Morris (@Properties), Sherry Smith, (NHS)
Determined to help every employee who qualifies for the benefit, Carter made recommendations to improve the program and remove barriers such as the University being a second lienholder on mortgages. The updated program now offers grants free and clear up to $20,000 that is made available at the time of closing on a primary residence in one of the University’s nine designated neighborhoods. Unlike the forgivable loans in the past, the grants do not compete with other homebuyer assistance programs and can be used in conjunction with those programs to help create even more savings. This is a total victory for UChicago employees.
According to an article published in the Economic Journal, boosting homeownership has been viewed as a means of delivering benefits to communities, such as lower crime rates, greater civic involvement, and improved child development. Living close to work not only reduces the employee's carbon footprint, but it also saves on gas, commuting time and commuting expenses, and it can even help alleviate stress.
Since its return, one FS employee has utilized the program and 13 employees campus wide have realized their dream of becoming a homeowner. Funds are available one time, on a first come, first serve basis and the program is subject to change. If you’re tired of renting, and thinking about becoming a homeowner, don’t delay; use this employee benefit. Find out if you qualify for the Employer-Assisted Housing Program or contact LaKeesha Carter for more information.